Source: Democracy Now!
A historic trial against former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity came to an abrupt end Thursday when an appeals court suspended the trial before a criminal court was scheduled to reach a verdict. Ríos Montt on was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Thursday’s decision is seen as a major blow to indigenous victims. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported last night Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina. Ríos Montt was the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. Nairn flew to Guatemala last week after he was called to testify in Ríos Montt’s trial. He was listed by the court as a “qualified witness” and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday. But at the last minute, Nairn was kept off the stand “in order,” he was told, “to avoid a confrontation” with the president, General Pérez Molina, and for fear that if he took the stand, military elements might respond with violence. In the 1980s, Nairn extensively documented broad army responsibility for the massacres and was prepared to present evidence that personally implicated Pérez Molina, who was field commander during the very Mayan Ixil region massacres for which the ex-dictator, Ríos Montt, had been charged with genocide.